Special Reserve Police (SRP) officer, who was repeatedly denied an opportunity to join the T&T Police Service because of a tattoo on his arm, has sued the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and the State.
In a judicial review and constitutional claim filed earlier this week, lawyers representing Givon Quamina, of Claxton Bay, questioned the legality and constitutionality of the TTPS’s Body Art and Modification Policy, which was contained in a departmental order issued in July.
The policy precludes TTPS members from having tattoos on their head, face, neck, ears, scalp, or hand that would be visible with their uniforms on. While officers are allowed to have tattoos on hidden parts of their bodies, tattoos that a “reasonable person would conclude are prejudicial to good order, discipline and morale or are of a nature to bring discredit upon the TTPS” are prohibited.
According to the evidence in the case, Quamina, who has been an SRP since 2014, claimed that he attempted to join the TTPS on several occasions, including last year, and was denied based on a tattoo on his upper right arm, which depicts a dollar sign, a star and his name.
In the court filings, Quamina’s lawyers claimed the policy was unfair, unreasonable, irrational, disproportionate and uncertain.
“No reasonable Commissioner of Police could adopt such a strict and inflexible anti-tattoo policy that prohibits the display of body art on the head, face, neck, ears, scalp or hands without consideration for the nature, reason for, and symbolism of, the tattoo. The absolute ban is therefore illegal,” they argued.
They also suggested that there was no correlation between having visible tattoos and not being able to uphold and reflect the organisation’s image and values.
“Indeed, it is illogical to assume that the absence of tattoos on the said body parts will inspire public confidence in the TTPS and maintain a professional image that is consistent with (a) the values of the organisation, (b) the code of conduct and the ethics of the TTPS and (c) the organisation’s vision and mission statement,” they said.
In the case, Quamina is also claiming that the policy breached his constitutional rights.
“The claimant is entitled, in the exercise of his liberty, to have a tattoo on his body. It is part of the right to freedom of thought and expression,” the lawyers said.
“Tattoos are no longer taboo and are now quite popular. They may have religious significance, reflect a particular belief, make a socio-political statement or be of sentimental value.”
They also pointed out that the policy was disproportionate, as Quamina had the tattoo before even being allowed to be an SRP and that he was never disciplined for it.
They also noted other officers were allowed to get tattoos after joining the service, including ASP Roger Alexander, who hosts the TTPS’s television show Beyond the Tape with visible tattoos on his arms.
Through the lawsuit, Quamina is seeking an order quashing the policy and a declaration that it does not preclude him from joining the TTPS. He is also seeking a declaration that his constitutional rights were infringed, as well as compensation for the salary increase he would have received if he was allowed to join the service in one of his numerous attempts.
Quamina is being represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Alvin Pariagsingh and Alana Rambaran.
A date for the first hearing of the lawsuit is yet to be set.